Using Avalara’s Free State & ZIP Tax Rate Downloads

In addition to integrating with Avalara’s tax integration service, Avatax, SoftSlate supports the notion of uploading tax rate tables based on country, state, and ZIP code. Avalara provides a free set of tax rate tables for all 50 states that provide ‘estimated combined rates’ for each ZIP code in the country. There are good reasons NOT to use these tables (for one, jurisdictions don’t always fall along ZIP code boundaries), but for some businesses it’s a good, simple solution. Follow these steps to upload the free Avalara tax tables into SoftSlate and set it up to use them to compute tax:

  1. First make sure SoftSlate is configured correctly.
    • Under Tax Configuration -> Tax Settings, the “Basic Tax Rate” processor should be enabled under “Active Tax Components”.
    • On that same screen, the “Are Tax Rates Cumulative?” setting should be set to “no”.
    • Also on that same screen, the “Are Tax Rates Percentages?” setting should be set to “no”.
  2. Download the Avalara state/ZIP tax tables from here. You can select multiple states at once. The result should be a ZIP file that has .csv files for each state you want to charge tax for. Each record of each .csv file has their ‘estimated combined rate’ for one ZIP code.
  3. Unzip the file and upload each of the .csv files using the Basic Tax Rate Import function in SoftSlate (new as of version 3.5.1).
    • The wizard is located under Utilities -> Imports and Exports -> Text File Imports -> Basic Tax Rate Import.
    • In the first step of the Import wizard, change the Delimiter to Comma and leave the other fields at their defaults.
    • In the second step, the columns to be imported should match automatically – State, Postal Code, and Rate are what will be imported. There’s no need to import the other fields.
  4. Once you’re done importing each of the files, you can review all of the imported records.
    • Under Tax Congfiguration – > Basic Tax Rates you can search for, view, delete, and deactivate or modify each of the tax rate records for each ZIP code.
    • Under Utilities -> Imports and Exports -> Text File Exports -> Basic Tax Rate Export, you can export all of the records you just imported. In a spreadsheet, you can make adjustments and then re-import that spreadsheet. Note that re-importing never deletes records, only updates them.
  5. Test that the tax rates are working by placing a test order using one of the ZIP codes you imported as the Delivery address’s ZIP code. The tax should show up on the invoice directly above the total.
  6. Periodically Avalara should notify you when tax rates have changed. When that happens, simply repeat the above steps to import the new files. Importing a new file will update the tax rates in SoftSlate.

About David Tobey

I'm a web developer and consultant based in lovely Schenectady, NY, where I run SoftSlate, LLC. In my twenties I worked in book publishing, where I met my wife. In my thirties I switched careers and became a computer programmer. I am still in the brainstorming phase for what to do in my forties, and I am quickly running out of time to make a decision. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. UPDATE: I have run out of time and received no (realistic) suggestions. I guess it's programming for another decade.
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